Rachel Ministries virtual retreat provides healing from post-abortive spiritual and emotional pain
FORT WORTH — Experts say spiritual trauma caused by abortion affects men and women, young and old, often leading to grief, shame, and depression that can last decades. To help those women and men — even during a pandemic — Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries will host its first ever virtual retreat Sept. 11 – 13.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the retreat will combine the Dallas and Fort Worth retreats into one.
Lisa Jones, a retreat team member in Fort Worth, is no stranger to that pain. She attended the retreat in 2010 after suffering in silence for years about her decision to abort a baby when she was 18. Today she helps others find relief.
At the time, Jones did not tell her parents and was relying on people working in the abortion clinic for information. “I knew better, but I believed the lie,” she said.
Jones, a cradle Catholic, said after her abortion she went home and tried to hide from her life, taking a “nose-dive.” She started drinking heavily and became promiscuous.
“It opened Pandora’s box. I held that secret in until my second marriage,” Jones said.
Jones said she had confessed her sin many times but even knowing God forgave her, she never felt forgiven, mainly out of guilt. At the retreat, “I walked out of that Confession and knew God had forgiven me. It was like [going from] death to resurrection.”
Jones said a deeply moving part of the retreat is a memorial service held for the unborn.
“It’s like a burial. My husband was there with me. It was real. My child became real to me,” she said. “When I left in 2010, the colors were brighter, I had been born again. I felt like I was just born into my faith. I know it is all because of forgiveness.”
Now helping others work through that pain, Jones said, “It’s like a little bit of heaven from Friday through Sunday.”
“We witness miracles all weekend. The Lord works in their hearts and minds,” she said.
Jones said everyone comes to the retreat very nervous and scared but soon becomes like family.
“We share on such a deep level,” she said. “Many had never shared their story.”
As for the changes in the setting at this year’s retreat, Jones said she is not worried.
“I know that God will accomplish it,” she said. “God will still work in whatever format we are given. We have to trust. We go into that without doubt. He can. He will.”
Betsy Kopor, coordinator of Rachel Ministries for the Fort Worth Diocese, has worked with post-abortive women and men for more than 20 years. Kopor herself went through an abortion and the hell it wrought before finding the healing of Rachel Ministries and making it her life’s work to help other women recover from abortion.
“It is a very intense experience. It’s a unique blend of spiritual and emotional help with the pain of abortion. There is a licensed counselor to help work through the guilt. We also have a priest and a facilitator,” she said. “It’s a very spiritual process. We don’t just sit around and chat and give presentations.”
Kopor said with the COVID-19 restrictions, going virtual this year was a logical choice.
For a virtual retreat, the facilitators are faced with a few challenges but plan to keep it as true to the face-to-face experience as possible. Participants are encouraged to find a place in their home that is private, free from distractions, and preferably on a laptop or desktop.
Regina Rivas, Dallas retreat coordinator, said they are preparing the agenda, using a little more creativity.
“We are mailing packages to retreat attendees with handouts and guides for the exercises,” Rivas said.
Much of the retreat involves participants listening and opening their hearts and minds, using Scripture and meditation. “Those can be done virtually pretty easily,” she said.
Rivas said they walk through stories about Jesus telling us what He wants for us.
“This is factual, the proof how Jesus understands our fallen state. His mercy is so great,” Rivas said. “A lot of counselors talk about mental health. We talk about the whole person. Not just our head and heart. It’s our soul. It’s a much deeper level. It’s at the core of our being.”
For more information or to enroll, call a confidential helpline at 817-923-4757. The cost, normally $150, is reduced to $50.
“But we want to stress, if someone does not have the money, no one misses it because of lack of money,” Kopor said.